This tutorial will introduce you to the basics of WordPress themes, which are one of the most fundamental elements of WordPress.
The most basic way to understand themes in WordPress is to think of them as a way to control how your WordPress site looks—themes control the appearance of your site.
While appearance may seem like a purely aesthetic factor, themes do more than control the aesthetics of your site. They also control the presentation and, to some extent, organization of the content on your site.
Your COPLACDigital site will come with 14 pre-selected themes for your choosing. We've chosen these themes based on a number of criteria, including responsiveness, flexibility, accessibility, version compatibility, etc. We are open to allowing you to experiment with other WordPress themes (of which thousands are available), but we strongly encourage you to first experiment with the pre-selected themes at your disposal.
To access your themes, choose the "Appearance" menu item from the main navigation in your site's Dashboard. From here, you'll be taken to the main Themes screen, and you should see a tiled display of the themes available to you.
By default, the Twenty Seventeen theme will be active on your site (unless you have already changed themes). To switch to a new theme, simply hover over the theme you want to switch to and choose "Activate." Since themes control the appearance of your site, and not its content, you won't lose any of the work you've done on your site. (It may, however, seem that you've lost content since themes change the presentation of your content—but don't worry, you haven't actually lost any content.)
While switching themes is relatively painless, we highly recommend test driving a theme first to see what it will look like for your site and its content. To test drive a theme, simply hover over it in the Appearance > Themes screen, and instead of choosing "Activate," choose the blue "Live Preview" button.
The Live Preview feature will allow you to see what your site will look like with this theme with all of your current published content and settings, so it's the best way to test out a theme before committing to it.
Once you've chosen a theme, you'll want to customize it to really make your site your own. The best and easiest place to do this is in the Customizer, which you can access by choosing "Customize" from the "Appearance" submenu in your Dashboard.
Depending on which theme you've chosen, you'll see different options in the Customizer. The more advanced the theme, the more options you'll have at your disposal to change.
Basic Customizer Options
The following options will most likely show in your Customizer regardless of which theme you have active:
- Active Theme — This setting will show up no matter what, and this is one place where you can change the active theme.
- Site Identity — Your site identity includes the title, tagline, site icon (also known as a favicon), and site logo.
- Menus — Menus establish the navigation for your site.
- Widgets — Widgets are blocks of content that typically appear in site sidebars and footers.
- Homepage Settings — Your homepage will either be a static Page or display your latest posts (your blogroll).
Other common options include:
- Colors — Typically this setting allows you to choose the most basic color scheme for your site (ex. background color and font color). More advanced and customizable themes will have most robust color options in the Customizer, such as link color, accent color, etc.
- Background Image/Header Image — Many WP themes feature background and/or header images, so if you've chosen a theme with that functionality, you'll see this option in the Customizer.
- Theme Options — What's included here is dependent on the theme, but in general it will provide additional settings for you to customize.
To change any of these options, simply select that section in the Customizer and make whatever changes you would like. The Customizer will preview the changes you've made before you save them so you can see if you like the changes or not.
Advanced (Theme- and Plugin-Specific) Customizer Options
As mentioned above, the more advanced the theme you choose, the more options will display in your Customizer. (See the image below of the COPLACDigital site's Customizer.) Since the advanced options depend entirely on the theme, we won't include a list here. If you choose a theme with many advanced options, we highly recommend taking the time to explore each option in the Customizer and see what changes it makes to your site. Additionally, theme Documentation (essentially an instruction manual) often details how to change specific features of a theme and what each option in the Customizer does. To view the documentation for your chosen theme, find the theme in the WordPress Theme Directory and click on the "Documentation" tab.
In addition to depending on which theme you have activate, advanced options in the Customizer can also appear based on which plugins you have activated. As discussed in the Plugin tutorial, plugins enhance and extend the functionality of your site—some of these functionalities are added as options in the Customizer. A prime example of a plugin adding to the Customizer is the activation of Jetpack. Activating Jetpack allows you to add custom CSS to your site, so if you activate Jetpack, a new option in the Customizer called "Additional CSS" will appear.